Archive for April, 2012

Sisters are Doing It . . .

April 30, 2012 - 1:15 pm No Comments











On, May and June celebrate women writers in SF, Horror and Fantasy. To raise the awareness of women writers of speculative fiction, I will, in addition to my regular posts, be reading and reviewing a number of works by female authors.

Over the next two months you can look forward to reading about these works; from Angry Robot I’ll be reviewing (and giving away!) The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle. I’ll also be reading Suited by Jo Anderton, Vn by Madeline Ashby and Obsidian and Blood by Aliette de Boddard.

From Solaris, I’ll be reading Darkening Skies by Juliet McKenna and Besieged by Rowena Cory Daniels.

From the small press arena, DAW and the classics, I’ll be reading The Legend of False Dreaming by Toiya Kristen Finley, From Dark Places by Emma Newman, Cyrus Darian and the Technomicron by Raven Dane and Discount Armageddon by Seanan McGuire.

Among the classics I am reading is Memoirs of a Space Woman by Naomi Mitchison. Which reminds me, for those of you who attended Eastercon, Caroline Mullan delivered a great talk on Naomi. If anyone knows how to contact Caroline (I would like to reproduce a copy of her talk) please contact me.

And for now, keep singing Sisters are doing it for themselves . . .

Autumn Aftermath

April 30, 2012 - 11:59 am 1 Comment










Autumn: Aftermath

Author: David Moody

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (US Imprint)

Page count:  388pp

Release date: 15th March 2012 (US)/15th Nov 2012 (UK)

Reviewer:  Theresa Derwin

The fifth and final novel in the series, Autumn Aftermath is currently available in the US and is available on until its UK release 15th Nov 2012.

The novel, which starts from the point of view of Jessica Lindt, one of the zombies, in a few chapters, brings us up to speed to the current winter setting.  Then we meet Alan Jackson, a survivor who wants to be on his own, that is until he meets a number of survivors in what appears to be a safe place; Cheetham Castle. Finding the other survivors holed up in the keep,Jacksondecides to stay awhile.

Next we encounter Driver from Autumn Disintegration. Faking illness, Driver escaped the confines of the hotel in Bromwell just as things were getting bad. Driver finds himself at the castle and the survivors at the castle decide to rescue the group at the hotel. This then brings two of the groups together in relative safety at the castle.

Now that the bodies are becoming more harmless and pressure is easing off the survivors, they have time to consider all that they have lost, and time to decide if they really want to life in the aftermath. Jas is becoming more emotional and starting to behave aggressively as he realises everything he has lost.

As the novel progresses we are reunited with Michael and Emma, last seen in Purification, and the settlement of survivors on the Isle of Cormansey. Circumstance brings Michael and a couple of survivors to the mainland and an encounter with Jas and Jackson, who are fighting for control of the castle.

As the series reaches its conclusion, we learn more about the nature of the dead and are in for more surprises. The dead soon become something to pity, as Michael watches hundreds of the bodies crammed into buses and trains, pawing to get out of their various traps like a pastiche of rush hour passengers.

Poignant and moving, Aftermath is a brilliant end to a series that has lived and breathed with us for ten long years. This novel feels like the end of an era; just as it should.

Simply stunning.

Overdrawn of the Dead

April 27, 2012 - 2:36 pm No Comments










Enjoy this informative and witty essay by Jasper Bark, author of Way of the Barefoot Zombie. In his essay Bark explores the appeal of the zombie in terms of economic downturn. This essay, and more like it on the art of writing the zombie, can be found in Zombie Writing!.

Over-Drawn of the Dead
Jasper Bark

The way the zombie has gripped the popular imagination over the last few years has been as unstoppable as an outbreak of the undead. At the same time, we have been undergoing the worst economic downturn in living memory. For me there is an undeniable link between these two facts, one that I looked at in my recent novel Way of the Barefoot Zombie and which I would also like to explore in this essay.

It’s my contention that that whenever the economy takes a nosedive, and social unrest kicks off, then the zombie’s stock starts to soar. To test this theory lets look at the first time the zombie appeared in popular western consciousness.

The zombie was first introduced to the West in the best selling Haitian travelogue The Magic Island, written by the alcoholic adventurer, and Aleister Crowley sidekick, W B Seabrook. This was in 1929 when we were in the depths of the last great depression. Zombies held such a grip on the public imagination that, three years later, independent producers Victor and Edward Halperin brought them to the screen for the first time in White Zombie.

This was 1932 when the international stock markets were at their all time low, people all over the globe were rioting about food and jobs and some soup kitchens had lines nearly a mile long. It’s no surprise then that White Zombie was so popular, it created a horror film stalwart that was rarely off the screen until Jacques Tourneur’s I Walked with a Zombie in 1949.

The 50s and 60s were times of greatly increased prosperity and, with one or two notable exceptions, the zombie pretty much drops out of view for these two decades. It’s only when we hit the civil unrest of the late 60s and the recession of the 70s that we start to get great films like Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and Jorge Grau’s The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue.

The early 80s brought us another great renaissance in Zombie fiction, kicking off with Dawn of the Dead, a year before the decade started, and culminating in a number of great Italian zombie films, foremost among them Lucio Fulci’s Zombie Flesh Eaters and the Gates of Hell Trilogy, not to mention the excellent comic series Deadworld, which is still going today. It also brought us global recession, strikes and a new protest movement.

So it would seem there is a connection between the popularity of walking corpses and the health of the economy. Economist are even turning to the zombie genre to describe the carnage in the world’s financial institutions. Terms like Zombie Bank, a bank that’s effectively bankrupt but kept alive by government bail outs, and Voodoo Accounting, the art of hiding your expenses and inflating your income, are seldom out of the pages of the Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal.

So why is it that zombies are so popular during times of economic woe? What is it about these shambling, animated cadavers that appeals to us when we start to feel the pinch in our wallets?

For many people losing their job doesn’t just mean losing their income, it can also mean losing their identity. It stirs up fears of becoming a redundant member of society, with nothing better to do than shamble around supermarkets all day, dressed in rags like, well like a zombie. Those people lucky enough to keep their jobs might feel like the post apocalyptic survivors of your average zombie flick. Desperately trying to carry on with their normal lives while more and more people around them fall prey to the economic holocaust.

I think the appeal of zombies in hard times comes from more than just this simple metaphor though. The power of the zombie as an icon lies in its mutability. The zombie can symbolise many of the things that are wrong with our society and cause it to break down.
To begin with the zombie represented white colonialism’s fear of the rebellious native. Back in 1791 Haitian slaves, led by their Voodoo priests, had revolted against the French and established a free country. This was the first time a western empire had ever been successfully challenged and it sent shockwaves through Europe. The popular image of the evil Voodoo priest raping and torturing innocent white settlers was established.
By the time White Zombie came out in 1932, America was having to admit that its own twenty year occupation of Haiti had failed and these same fears were at the forefront of the American mind. Right up to I Walked with a Zombie, zombies in the movies were mindless black slaves of an invariably white magician. Though they were in thrall to their oppressor, they threatened at any moment to overturn his power and turn on him, like they did in Revolt of the Zombies.

When Romero borrowed a scenario from Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend, he not only added the post apocalyptic motif to the genre, he also introduced the theme of social conformity versus the rights of the individual. The American public were bitterly divided over an un-winnable war abroad and popular dissent at home much (much as they are today). Romero used the zombie to capture the neuroses that were bubbling to the surface as America once again struggled to come to terms with its new cultural identity.
In video games like Resident Evil the zombie reinvented itself once again, as the perfect target for a shoot ‘em up. They might look like human beings but they’re actually soulless husks. They’re the hordes of the enemy. The deadly other who is coming kill and convert us just for being the way we are.

So we don’t have to worry about their human rights. It’s okay to blow them away with abandon. It won’t even stain our consciences if we lock them up in detainment camps and torture them for intel because, like terrorists, they threaten us and we can’t identify with them. Therefore they’re not really human.

Zombies aren’t just ‘the other’ though. “They are us” is a phrase that appears in several films by Romero and other directors. The zombie might be seen as a secret reflection of our western society, mindlessly consuming material goods and natural resources as a zombie consumes flesh. Like a zombie in search of prey we overwhelm other cultures and convert them into consumer societies to expand our market. All the while we fear that this endless expansion will inevitably bring about the sort of societal break down that most modern zombie films depict.

Of course there are other themes I haven’t mentioned. During the cold war zombies played on our fears of the deadening economic conformity of communism. Contagion and our fears of a pandemic disaster run through the Return of the Living Dead series and were picked up by Danny Boyle in 28 Days Later.

Maybe the most personal thing that the zombie apocalypse represents to us all however, is freedom. Much as we like to believe we live in a meritocracy where hard work and talent are rewarded, our everyday lives don’t always support this. Many of us have day jobs we don’t enjoy, that don’t fulfill us or our ambitions.

We like to think we live in a free society too, but in times of economic hardship this can also seem less true. No matter what government we vote for, we end up having to pay taxes we don’t want and follow new laws we don’t support. We have to go to a work place we might not like and kiss the ass of a boss we very probably hate. We might not even be able to do the things we want in whatever free time we have left, due to lack of money or opportunity.
So it’s not hard to see why the fantasy of a world where all these things are swept away over night by a ravenous horde of walking corpses is so appealing. I think Romero’s Dawn of the Dead and Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s Shaun of the Dead are arguably the two most popular zombie films for one good reason – they’re both wish fulfillment fantasies.
Who hasn’t wandered round a mall and dreamed of having it all to themselves, of running through every shop and helping themselves to whatever they want with no-one to stop them? Or come to that, camping out in their local pub with all their mates and no bar staff to call time.

What the apocalypse does, in our imagination, is free us from all the restrictions of the every day world. An every day world that is often so oppressive and restricting that the total breakdown of society, at the hands of the undead, actually looks kind of fun in comparison. Especially if we get a lock-in at our favourite pub and as many bar snacks as we can eat.

More than any other icon of horror the zombie has been able to mutate and change so it keeps on reflecting our worst or most hidden fears and desires. This is why the zombie appeals to me as a writer of horror novels and comics.

I like to break new ground in my fiction so I tend to avoid most of the old staples of the genre. The zombie is the only pre-existing monster I’m prepared to work with because I can still think of new ways to use them and fresh fears that they might represent.
That’s not to say that you can’t still do fresh and original things with vampires and werewolves. However vampires and werewolves do still symbolize pretty much the same thing today as they’ve always done. Their costumes might have been modernized but they represent the same primal fears and neuroses that they’ve always done.

And let’s face it, if a werewolf or a vampire ever got into a fight with zombie there is no contest over who would win. The vampire and werewolf could bite the zombie as many times as they like and it would still be a zombie. The zombie, on the other hand, only has to bite them once and they’re a Zompire or a Werebie. (Is it just me, or does a Werebie sounds like a particular perverse type of Furbie?)

For me, the very best horror is about more just the trappings of the genre, more than even fear itself. It’s a way of facing up to those things about our world that are barely faceable, of confronting taboos and saying the things no-one wants to say about the human condition. It works best when it’s about far more than just the fear of death or the threat of a monster.

The mutability of the zombie and they way it keeps reinventing itself makes it a perfect vehicle for stories that do just that. That’s why I find myself coming back to zombies time and again to mine new tales of satire and blood soaked social commentary.
Oh, and let’s not forget that they eat brains. And they never wash. And they always, always win. I mean how cool is that.

If you enjoyed this essay, check out more of Jasper’s work online at:


Bloody Good Abomination

April 24, 2012 - 11:20 am 1 Comment

Abomination Magazine: Issue 1
Author: (Ed) Corey J Goldberg, Cab Tran
Publisher: Abomination Magazine
File Size: 653KB (92 pages estimated)
Release date: 16th April 2012
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

Abomination is a brand new online horror/genre magazine, featuring short stories, poetry, art work and a Lovecraftian comic strip.

It’s a nice debut and kudos to this team for bringing a new horror product into the arena.
The first story ‘Burning like Dead Skin’ by William J Fedigan is strangely poetic and tightly paced. ‘Selection’ by W B Stickel, is an exploration of the Nazi occupation and the persecution of the Jews. Rezdon, receives a mysterious visitor in Paraguay who appears to know all of history including his real name. Rezdon has no choice but to take a train journey with his visitor and face his demons. ‘Whispers in the Skin Garden’ by Matthew S Dent features a garden where skin is grown for grafts. This is a rather creepy tale as follow the gardener through his duties. ‘The Bird’ by Tyler Miller is a witty piece about Miguel, a local who is ostracised when he tells the town about the giant bird he saw, that killed his brother. The town’s people do not believe him of course and his wife begins to doubt him too. There are plenty of giggles in this one. ‘In the Name of the Mother’ by Steve Lowe, is perhaps the most complex piece of all the short stories. Maggie is a special child; at just seven years old her appearance is that of a thirty year old woman and she is heavily pregnant with a litter. She has been taken by the men of the town and is afraid of all men believing them liars. But what are their motives in taking her? It is a dark post apocalyptic story that reminds me of ‘Planet of the Apes’ and is an uncomfortable read.

I had a few issues with this magazine, which I believe are technical problems relating to the kindle; these being that I could not read the comic strip no matter how much I enlarged the font size and the art work was difficult to view too. If anyone has a solution, please contact me.

My other concern is the lack of female representation in the magazine, which I hope is addressed as more submissions are sent their way.
However, this is a good solid magazine that at only £1.30 is worth every penny, if only for the short stories and poetry. I expect good things from this magazine and look forward to issue 2 in July 2012.

Code Z for the Dead

April 23, 2012 - 4:03 pm 2 Comments

Code Z: An Undead Hospital Anthology
Author: (Ed) Lyle Perez-Tinics
Publisher: Knightwatch Press
File Size: 424 KB
Release date: 16th March 2012
Reviewer: Theresa Derwin

We all know many of our favourite Zombie flicks and books make their start in or around a hospital but they soon leave the confines of the medical building and start to lay waste to the world, but what happens in those first few hours.
Now is the time to find out.

CODE Z – An Undead Hospital Anthology, is a horror anthology with an undead theme. It contains tales of life, horror, excitement and of course the undead.

What happened in those few precious hours before the plague of the dead left the hospital? This book attempts to furnish readers with the answer.

The first notable story is ‘To Walk the Halls’, by Rebecca Besser, which features a woman going into early labour with some nice gruesome bits, although the ending is a little abrupt.

In ‘Deliver us from Evil’, by Peggie Christie, Carolyn hates hospitals but has no excuse but to be there as her Mom is in ICU following a stroke. Laced with gallows humour, this story features an undead flasher, which definitely brought a smile to my face.

In ‘Fast Food’ by Jonathon Wood, we meet Keith, who becomes a security guard at a local hospital after being made redundant from the civil service. The job is ok, but the noises at the morgue give him the heebie jeebies. It doesn’t help that new mortician Derek is a bit scary too.

‘Showers’ by Steve Gierman has the dead arise at the local hospital through a meteor shower.

In ‘Skin and Bones’ from Rebecca Snow, Susana is stuck in a psych ward suffering with anorexia when it all kicks off. It offers an original slant on the zombie apocalypse and is one of the standout stories in the anthology.

The editing is a little shaky on some of the stories, but it doesn’t detract from the overall quality of the book. As with most anthologies, Code Z is a bit of a mixed bag. Readers will often find they don’t like some stories, enjoy others and absolutely love a few, which is just what I found in this collection. The stories are varied considering they all take place at similar locations and I would estimate that I enjoyed 70% of the stories. At a bargain price of £2.63 it’s definitely worth a look.